While most training courses for principals cover many of the challenging situations expected to be encountered, specific items must be on the agenda of every new principal. Ignore these five crucial gems of advice at your own risk. Take them to heart and expect that your initiation into that new role or new school to be that much smoother and painless.
1 – You Need an Entry Plan
Don’t think the first day of school is essential only for the new teacher. It is critical for the new principal as well. Remember, you only have one chance to create that first impression – you can never walk through the door again for the first time. So it is imperative to carefully consider how you will present yourself to the teachers, children, and community.
2 – Sharpen Those Communication Skills
Very early on, the new administrator needs to establish, articulate, and begin persuading all relevant constituencies of the vision upon which his/her new administration will be guided. Key is the ability to communicate that carefully thought out vision in different ways to the faculty, students, parents and school board. Everyone involved will be looking for clarity and answers.
Therefore, it would behoove the new principal to seek guidance on how to effectively communicate with these various groups. However, this goes far beyond “finding the right words.” It means to “play act” the situations where the principal will find himself/herself “under the gun” such as in a faculty or school board meeting or interacting with a parent or student when a problem arises.
3 – Priorities: Servicing every student, even those needing speech therapy
Perhaps the most challenging dimension of the principal’s role is the constant balancing act of fulfilling the obligations of managing and supervising the school without losing focus on academics and instruction. At times something as simple as a plumbing problem can throw the whole ship into disarray. Your role as principal covers anything and everything!
But there is an even more meaningful dimension to the principal’s sense of priorities. While the primary focus is on academics, the efficient administrator needs to assure that every student’s needs are met- including those requiring specialized services such as mental health or speech therapy. Kids suffering deficits such as speech disorders will fail without speech therapy.
The new principal must never lose sight of the fact that no child should be left behind. Those who won’t necessarily be the pride and joy of the school, such as those requiring speech therapy, are no less entitled to every resource and opportunity available than those who will win the awards.
4 – Courage
Courage is not only for the brave but for anyone who decides to be a principal. Why? Because it is just unavoidable that the principal will be confronted with difficult issues from a variety of sources – be them from parents, community or the faculty that will demand that the principal take a stand, albeit sometimes unpopular, to protect the interests of the school and the students.
Sure, it is easier to be the sweet guy and choose the non-confrontational route. While this may feel better, it is in effect an abdication of responsibility. New principals would do well to practice having difficult and unpleasant conversations before walking in the door so that when the time comes to stand up, fear won’t weaken their resolve and they will do what is right.
5 – Support System
Let’s be honest. As prepared as a principal can be, he/she is still human and needs support. Whether this is a friend, confidant or colleague, the most important thing is to have someone to help diffuse stressful situations and offer guidance. Be assured that when those tough days come, and they will, someone is there to help you through it all and keep you being your best!